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Of course the Atlanta Falcons pulled off the worst loss in the history of football

A franchise known for epic heartbreakers really outdid itself this time.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
The greatest sports moment I’ve ever seen, and it didn’t matter much
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

So there I was, flat on my back and hollering at either the moon or my wife — whichever was listening at the time — in that special state of drunkenness, the one where you’re drunk enough to say the things drunk people say, but sober enough to wake up the next day, remember all of it, and know you meant it. It’s like floating away from your body, observing the most unhinged version of yourself, and then stepping back in with a clearer assessment of all your wildest ideas. Also, your neighbors get to listen.

One of the things I heard myself howling after midnight as my wife confiscated the bourbon bottle was something about being chosen by God and geography to bear the unnecessary burden of Atlanta Falcons fandom. Hearing that First-World Problems whine made me laugh at the embarrassing wreck that was piled on the wet porch, dirtying its prized Deion Sanders throwback jersey. The next thing I heard that wreck say wasn’t quite as funny.

“Football has existed for 150 years, and the Atlanta Falcons just suffered the sport’s worst loss ever.”

As soon as Drunk Me said it, Sober Me knew it was true.

Listen. My people don’t get to claim much, as far as team sports titles go. You’ve seen this fact in Atlanta Explainers over the last two weeks. All we have are Slam Dunk Contest victories, some old college football stuff, and a 1-4 World Series record. Every time we reach a big stage, we burn down the theater, and with no history to fall back on, it just hurts more each time. I hate it most for the Falcons players who were just introduced to this.

So let us have this. Let us lay claim to the worst loss in the history of American football. We need this medal. Thank you.

You’re thinking of other candidates. That’s fine. Let’s go through some.

There have been thousands of mortifying losses below the major college level. The Texas high school YouTube legend is a valid all-timer. But Pop Warner and high school games were not Super Bowls, in my opinion. A championship no one outside a single state cares about can hardly join this debate. The Falcons were out here letting down the entire world, not just some state’s Class 6A football fans.

And college games are tricky, with FBS only having a couple dozen or so bona fide championship games in its ancient history.

Alabama’s 2016 loss to Clemson is comparable to what the Falcons just achieved, though the Tide’s collapse was nowhere near as drastic. Georgia in 2012 came one tipped pass in Atlanta away from getting to beat Notre Dame for a title, though the 2012 Falcons did almost literally the same thing. (It’s a great sports state.) Also in the recent running: 2007 West Virginia’s loss to arch rival Pitt, Oregon’s 2007 loss of Dennis Dixon, various other 2007 events nationwide, every team that has to play Auburn during one of those Magic Auburn Years, every time a Florida State-Miami game comes down to a kick, amazingly many Michigan and Tennessee games, and so on.

But still: those were title shots, not title games. To approach a Super Bowl loss, we have to be talking championship. (Also, get any loss by Alabama out of my face. Go cry into your large piles of trophies.)

2011 LSU is a candidate, with its rematch loss to Bama the rare exception to the thinking that it hurts less to get blown out in a championship than to lose close (CAN CONFIRM). Miami’s suspect 2002 loss to Ohio State is up there. The Vince Young Rose Bowl is more of a Great Game than a Gut-Wrenching Loss, but throw it in, along with whatever else. Oh, Auburn’s Michael Dyer was down against Oregon.

The thing is: Teams like LSU, Miami, and USC had previous titles to console themselves with. The Falcons have none. Neither does Oregon. Oregon, you can stay on the list.

At the NFL level, let’s overlook non-Super Bowl events like the Bills’ 32-point comeback in 1992’s playoffs to beat the Oilers because, bear with me now, those were not Super Bowls. (If we consider non-Super Bowls, I’ll filibuster with other Falcons playoff meltdowns anyway.)

The Patriots’ 2007 loss to the Giants did ruin a perfect season, but New England had just won half of the previous six Super Bowls. Similar story for the 2014 Seahawks, whose coaching staff goofed away a win over New England (hello), as Seattle had won the Super Bowl the year prior. If your team has ever won a Super Bowl before, let alone a recent one, we’re really not speaking the same language. In my current condition, I cannot be expected to acknowledge the emotions of anyone who’s able to call up comforting memories.

Others like the the Bills’ Wide Right, the Titans’ 1-yard-short loss to the Rams, the Bengals falling prey to Joe Montana, and the Broncos going up by 10 before losing by 32 to Washington are in the running, sure.

Regardless, I’ll submit the fact that a 25-point collapse to cough up your first Super Bowl win ever is worse than any of that kind of stuff.

Losing on a single play sucks, but it happens to somebody every week of every year. Losing despite a four-score lead with 21 minutes to go doesn’t happen, let alone in the Super Bowl.

For about an hour, we were growing certain we were going to win. WR Mohamed Sanu said after the game that his teammates were thinking the game was all but won. The W was so assured — up to 99.8 percent win probability, per ESPN, meaning we could restart the game in the middle of the third quarter 100 times and expect the Falcons to win roughly all 100 — that even Falcons fans began to assume victory. We don’t get to assume victory with a two-score late lead over the damn Chargers, yet we had such a lead over the NFL’s greatest winning machine that we were discussing parade plans. Killer Mike’s “Big Beast” was queued up to start the postgame playlist. My nerves were nearly settled enough to eat something for the first time all day. One person at our party ordered a custom-designed victory shirt instead of waiting for the official ones. I had tattoo plans and a Devonta Freeman Super Bowl LI jersey in the shopping cart. You’ll never get to see the Outkast-themed Atlanta victory meme that @SBNationGIF had prepped. Matt Ryan and other longtime Falcons had to face the media after that.

And now things are so bad, Saints fans, our lifelong hate-siblings in mediocrity, other than that one game they won, are offering condolences.

Listen. Y’all.

Falcons fans working at sporting goods stores had to take our first-ever championship merch back off of mannequins in the middle of the night as news cameras filmed it all.

I can’t watch that without going back to the crawlspace. Goodbye.


Super Bowl LI recap